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‘Apprentice’ Contestant Summer Zervos Drops Defamation Case Against Donald Trump

Donald Trump and Summer Zervos

Donald Trump and Summer Zervos

Former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos dropped her defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump on Friday, after the former president’s lawyer filed counterclaims under a New York State law punishing litigation meant to chill free speech.

Trump also agreed to abandon his counterclaim, according to the just-released stipulation.

The filing marks a precipitous end to a nearly half-decade-old lawsuit, which Trump initially and unsuccessfully tried to dismiss by claiming immunity as then-president of the United States. Two levels of New York State courts disagreed, citing the Bill Clinton precedent.

By the time the case rose to New York’s highest Court of Appeals, Trump was no longer president, and that issue was moot.

Zervos’s lawyers Beth Wilkinson and Moira Penza insisted that their client still stands by the allegations.

“Today the parties have ended Zervos v. Trump,” they told Law&Crime in a statement. “After five years, Ms. Zervos no longer wishes to litigate against the defendant and has secured the right to speak freely about her experience. Ms. Zervos stands by the allegations in her complaint and has accepted no compensation.”

A former contestant of Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, Zervos filed her lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court three days before the former president’s tenure officially began. Zervos alleges that Trump groped her at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007.

The defamation lawsuit, however, focuses less on Trump’s alleged conduct than his denial of it in the wake of the disclosure of the “Access Hollywood” tape. After footage of Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy,” Zervos alleged that Trump touched her breasts and pressed his genitals against her without consent.

The then-candidate insisted: “To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.”  Trump later tweeted on his then-active Twitter account that the parade of women accusing him of sexual misconduct “made up” claims that “never happened.” Zervos claimed these denials were defamatory.

Earlier this year, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba began a counteroffensive against Zervos, filing counterclaims under New York anti-SLAPP law, an acronym short for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”

According to a stipulation between the parties filed publicly on Friday, “all claims and counterclaims asserted in this matter, or that could have been asserted, are hereby dismissed and discontinued in their entirety with prejudice, with each party to bear his or her own costs.”

Habba told Law&Crime that Zervos’s hand was forced to drop the matter.

“Today, Ms. Zervos made the prudent decision to voluntarily drop her case without the exchange of any compensation or attorneys’ fees,” Habba wrote in an email. “She had no choice but to do so as the facts unearthed in this matter made it abundantly clear that our client did nothing wrong. It is a privilege to defend President Trump, who has been relentlessly attacked and viciously hounded by bad faith actors. Enough is enough.”

A founder and managing partner at the law firm Habba Madaio & Associates, LLP, Habba also represents the former president in his recent lawsuit against his niece Mary Trump. Habba’s firm’s Bedminster offices are just a 10-minute drive away from Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

[images via YouTube screengrabs]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."